A year after their beloved son was brutally murdered in a xenophobic attack in Alexandra, the family of the late Emmanuel Sithole, a Mozambican national, wants closure.
Sithole, who at the time was making a living by selling cigarettes and snacks on the pavement, died on the 18th of April 2015 of stab wounds inflicted by four local thugs who refused to pay for a cigarette that they took from him.
“They poured him with a beer, hit him with a hammer and one of them took out a knife and stabbed him. They killed him like a dog,” said Sithole’s grandfather, Peter Sithole, still grieving.
Though the accused has since been charged and sentenced, the family felt 17 years in jail for taking someone’s life is not enough. They feel hard done by the criminal justice system. They say Sithole was the breadwinner of the family. His mother is old and frail and there is no one who is looking after his two wives and three kids in Mozambique.
“I wonder if the same sentence would have been given to a Mozambican if he killed a South African? asked uncle, Peter Sihlangu who strongly believes his nephew’s killers should have been given life sentences.
Sithole came to South Africa and settled in Alexandra more than 10 years ago and after finding it hard to get formal employment, resorted to selling items on the street as a way of supporting himself and his family.
His death, like many others who died in 2008 during the country’s fierce xenophobic attacks, has increased fear among his fellow countrymen who are surviving in South Africa and counting their blessings each passing day that they are not attacked because going back home is not an option.
“We are not safe in South Africa and at the same time things are not good at home. Coming here is the only way to survive poverty and other bad things at home,” said Zakeu Ndlovu standing behind his stall of sweets, fruit and cigarettes at the corner of 16th and 17th avenue.
“This is better than nothing,” he says.
The only way to find closure for the Sithole family is if the accused’s families go to Mozambique, to ask forgiveness from his mother, go to his grave and do the same.
“Especially his mother wives and kids. They are thinking about him every day and night. No one will feel their pain. Come to us here and asking for forgiveness won’t help. They must go to Mozambique,” said Sihlangu.
Refilwe Khunou, one of the peacemakers in Alexandra from Action Support Centre said he mediated during the peace talks between the two families and they agreed that once enough funds were raised, they will travel to Mozambique and do as the deceased family wished.
Fulu Sinthumule from Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), agrees and said communities in which there are migrants must engage in series of dialogues, educating one another on why there are migrants in South Africa.